Bob Kinkead prepares sauteed soft shelled crabs in 2009 at his soon to shutter Foggy Bottom restaurant. (Dominic Bracco II/The Washington Post) (DOMINIC BRACCO II)

 “The lease is up” in February, explained the recipient of the 1995 Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic award from the James Beard Foundation. But Kinkead plans to turn out the lights in his 245-seat seafood behemoth a few weeks early, in part to give his 95 staff members Christmas off.

A sluggish economy and changing tastes contributed to the chef’s decision to throw in the dish towel. “It takes lots of bodies
to keep going,” even if the dining rooms aren’t busy, said Kinkead. In its
heyday, his kitchen served 400 covers, or meals, a day. To the end, his
crab cakes and lobster rolls, raw oysters and grilled fish remained

 While some online observers are calling it the end of an era, Kinkead, who retains a restaurant, Sibling Rivalry, with his brother in
Boston, doesn’t plan to retire. “I can’t,” said the 60-year-old. Hell Point, his brief and unsuccessful dip in the dining pool in Annapolis, “cleaned
my clock, financially.”

For an encore, the chef says he might return to his soon-to-be-empty Foggy Bottom space. One of his next ideas, “something smaller,” is a menu featuring “Mediterranean-Italian twists on what I do” in a modified portion of his current operation. “I’m a big believer in restaurants having a shelf life,” he said. As for his large staff: “I hope to take as many as can fit in.”

News of the impending closure was released prematurely last night via Twitter, by a manager who will be “severely disciplined” today, Kinkead said.